The average salary of an adjunct faculty member at Colorado community colleges, according to a report by Colorado Adjuncts, is $15,000. The same report noted that a Colorado State Employee Custodian III earns $33,420. On top of earning less than half of what a custodian makes, adjunct faculty members do not qualify for state benefits, like healthcare. Adjunct faculty are intentionally kept under 30 hours per week in order to avoid mandatory benefits.
Adjunct faculty members are part time employees, contracted to teach a wide range of classes at community colleges across the state of Colorado. While they make up 70 percent of the teaching force at community colleges, Colorado Adjuncts claims adjunct faculty are underpaid, and their plight has gone unrecognized by the public. The group released a report detailing its findings on various salaries and profits of community colleges across the state in January of this year.
In what Caprice Lawless, a co-founder of the advocacy group, calls a “Wal-Mart model delivering higher education”, the group outlines how community colleges use a business model similar to major retailers. They keep wages low for essential employees, and deny hours to avoid paying for healthcare, while rerouting tuition and state funding elsewhere, including towards salary for administrators and new, expensive buildings. The Community College of Denver, located on the Auraria Campus, serves as a model for this practice, as the college intentionally restricts the hours of adjuncts in order to avoid paying benefits. Budget cuts to education are often cited as a reason for the reduction of hours. In May, the Community College of Denver touted the opening of Confluence, a $38 million building, that has been referred to as a “one stop shopping center for students”. While many businesses across the nation blame the sudden mandates in the Affordable Care Act for reducing hours to employees, Colorado Adjuncts claims this practice has been going on for at least 5 years in Colorado community colleges.
In the report, the advocacy group not only points out that the average salary of adjuncts is $15,000, it also notes that the living minimum wage in Jefferson County is $19,275, according to a 2013 MIT living wage calculation. Adjuncts’ salaries are more than $4,000 under the poverty level. The report also noted that many adjuncts are known to apply for food stamps, and they also “qualify for hardship and charity-status at local health clinics and hospitals.” Colorado Adjuncts is just beginning to try and spread the word about the financial hardships that 70 percent of community college teachers face in Colorado.